“I think it’s good to underestimate us.”

Photos by Grace Chiu and Lloyd Smith

Are you feeling comfortable?

Oh, yeah. It was great! I had a couple mistakes here and there, but I got up, did it perfectly right after. I had to tweak a few things mentally, but physically I feel great, I feel ready. I’m finished with training and I could probably go round two right now, but I won’t do that, that’s a little (much)! But I’m feeling great for qualifications. I think everyone else is here, too.

When you get to another country to compete, how long does it take for you to adjust?

The rule of thumb is five days to finally get to normal. Today is the fifth day and I finally had my longest consecutive hours of sleeping, so I think I’m finally over the hump. I’m a little tired today because I think I got too many hours of sleep to make up for what I wasn’t getting earlier! But, I think from here on out I’m going to be perfectly normal, acclimated, and ready to go!

What are the team’s expectations for this competition?

Our team’s expectations are to put some pressure on the general top three which would be Japan, Russia and China. And really hit routines, stick landings, try to be as clean as possible and put the pressure on them and if they make mistakes, we’re going to be the ones that capitalize on it.

Is it fair to say this team has been a little underestimated so far?

Yes and no. I think it’s good to underestimate us. We don’t want to say that we are the best or lie to everyone and say that we have confidence in a medal, but I think what we can do is just control our gymnastics and our quality of gymnastics, and that’s what we’re going to take away and put it into plan.

You had a lot of pressure to win a medal last year. What did that do to your confidence this year?

I think what it did was it gave me an experience to grow off. As much as it hurts to watch that over and over, it was good and it was something where I was able to go through the mental process beforehand and during and just be like, ‘What was I doing wrong?’ To be able to actually analyze and say, ‘Alright. This is what I did. Here is what I did wrong and here is what I’m going to do right next time.’ Because I hope I find myself in that situation.  I’ve had a year of preparation for that moment so I’m hoping that it can go well this time. It’s always been my lifelong dream and I just really want to learn from my mistakes.

How do you feel about Japan competing without Kohei Uchimura?

This is a very new team, but we go to Japan very often. We traveled there in preparation for the Olympics, so we’ve actually gotten to compete against these guys quite a few times and gotten to know a lot of them in their own gyms; personal relationships. The language barrier is still there, but it was honestly really great rotating with them last year. They liked our energy and they were so respectful. It’s just a great rotation to have. It’s fun to watch them, too. There’s always a good, positive outcome when we’re hanging out with Japan.

How important is it to qualify the team to Tokyo?

I think it’s super important. I would be lying if I didn’t say, we kind of feel pretty confident that we will be able to qualify. Our biggest goal would be just putting pressure on and hitting our routines because that’s what we can control. I would say it’s important of course, but we just want to try to get as close to that medal podium as possible.

Who are the key people you’re trying to beat here?

It’s Russia, China definitely. You got Artur [Dalaloyan], you got [Nikita] Nagorny, you got [Xiao] Ruoteng, Sun Wei… All of them are high, high hitters. There’s a couple other countries who have single guys who are top dogs as well, but those four or five are definitely the biggest ones.